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Click & Collect: In-Store Counter Collection vs. Automated Retail Locker

Updated Jan 30, 2024

Retail shopping has forever changed with the exponential growth of online shopping and the evolution of click-and-collect shopping since the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, e-commerce’s share of all retail sales has now hit a jaw-dropping 23% during the third quarter of 2020.1 Retail innovations, such as improved technology and order fulfilment options, have revolutionised the way consumers shop.

One of the most popular trends in retail innovation is “click and collect”. Click and collect includes in-store collection from a staffed counter or till, as well as automated parcel collection from a smart Retail Locker. However, there are key differences between the two.

Counter Collection Pick-up in Locker
Saves Retailer Last-Mile Costs Yes Yes
Contactless Returns Limited availability, substantial wait time Customers can easily self-serve, processing a return within 2 minutes
Spurs Impulse Purchases No 61% of customers make an incremental purchase
Requires staff to process orders Yes No
Retailer Labour Cost Substantial Minimal
Perceived Wait Time for Customers 8-12 minutes Less than 30 seconds
Sales Impact & Loyalty 2x sales increases (approximately double) Customers are 4x more likely to purchase again if wait is under 2 minutes

Counter Collection Process

In-store counter collection services have become a popular option for customers who prefer to shop online but still want to pick up their orders in person from their selected store.

Here’s how in-store counter collection works:

  1. A customer places an online order through the retailer’s website or mobile app.
  2. The customer selects the in-store pickup option and chooses a nearby store location.
  3. Using real-time inventory information, the retailer’s site informs the customer about available pickup times.
  4. A store associate picks and packs the order.
  5. The customer is provided a collection notification via email and/or SMS that their order is ready for pickup in their chosen store.
  6. The customer goes to the designated in-store pickup counter and presents their order confirmation email and identification (such as a photo ID or driver’s license).
  7. A store associate retrieves the order from the backroom and delivers it to the customer at the pickup counter. Note: Limited support for returns at the in-store pickup counter; customers may be required to enter the store or ship the order back themselves.

Smart Locker Steps for Retrieving Orders

  1. Customers place an online order either through the website or mobile app.
  2. Using real-time inventory information, retailers’ sites inform customers about available store pickup location options.
  3. A store associate picks and packs the click & collect order.
  4. A store associate securely places the delivery into the locker.
  5. Customers are notified that their order is ready for pick-up.
  6. Customers come into their designated physical store and collect their order at their convenience. Note: order pickup with smart parcel lockers typically takes less than 30 seconds.
  7. Lockers also support contact-free returns, a process that also takes less than 30 seconds for a customer to complete. That means customers don’t need to worry about the hassle of checking their selected store’s opening hours or waiting in long lines to make a return.

The Key Advantages of Smart Retail Lockers

Click and collect service options solve the problem of last-mile delivery. In fact, US retailer Target estimates that it costs an average of 40% less when shoppers choose a click & collect order collection option compared to the average shipping costs from a warehouse.

  • Incremental Purchases and Sales – 61% of customers make an incremental purchase just by virtue of entering the store! And, customers whose wait times are two minutes and under (like when collecting from a locker!), are four times more likely to purchase again.
  • Lower Labour Costs – Collecting from a store counter or locker requires retail employees to pick and pack the order. The key difference with a locker-based click and collect service, however, is that once the order is placed into a locker, the labour costs decrease significantly. Retailers that employ parcel lockers saved an average of 45 hours per month versus manually managing orders via a counter service, for example.2
  • Fast and Easy Returns – If customers collect their order from a locker and decide not to keep it for whatever reason, they are able to communicate with the retailer and returns it to the locker at their convenience for an easy return.  Retail lockers are a delivery option that ensure seamless returns management, and are regarded as one of the most important omnichannel trends for 2024 and beyond. By contrast, counter collection services requires customers to enter the store, perhaps stand in line, and deal with an employee to issue a return/refund. Alternatively, customers may return the item by shipping back to the retailer, often at their own expense since free returns are becoming less common.

    Automating return fulfilment through Parcel Pending by Quadient’s smart locker solutions:

    • Provides an attractive return-to-store option that drives added footfall and removes friction from the return process
    • Helps to reduce the time it takes to re-shelve merchandise and minimise discounting
    • Provides convenience-driven consumers with an attractive return-to-store option and sets retailers up to recoup the sale
  • Better Customer Experience – The retail customer experience is more important than ever and has proven itself to be critical for ensuring repeat business. Since it only takes an average of only two minutes to retrieve a package via a smart Retail Locker, customers rate their shopping experience higher. 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties and loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again.3,4

Overwhelmingly, smart lockers win the competition for customers’ hearts and wallets, and present new opportunities for retailers. Talk to a customer service representative today about how your store can join major retailers just like Decathlon that have installed Parcel Pending’s locker pickup solutions to boost sales and loyalty.


  1. Kapner, Suzanne. The Wall Street Journal. Covid-19 Rewrote the Rules of Shopping. What’s Next?. (2021, March 12). https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-rewrote-the-rules-of-shopping-what-is-next-11615561232.
  2. Reidel, Kate. Parcel Pending. Omnichannel Retail Strategy: Bringing Online Shoppers to Brick & Mortar Stores. (2020, June 1). https://www.parcelpending.com/en-usblog/omnichannel-retail-strategy-bringing-online-shoppers-to-brick-mortar-stores/.
  3. Clark, David & Puthiyamadam, Tom. PWC. Experience is Everything. Get it right. (2017). https://www.pwc.com/future-of-cx.
  4. Dorsey, Moira. Qualtrics XM Institute. Research Recap: ROI of Customer Experience, 2020. (2020, September 17). https://www.xminstitute.com/blog/research-recap-2020-roi-cx/.